December 22, 2014 06:24 UTC

As It Is

Space Flights Can Harm Astronauts' Health

Short trips into space can weaken the body’s natural defenses for fighting disease.

Mission specialist  performs checks of a cell culture module aboard the US space shuttle.
Mission specialist performs checks of a cell culture module aboard the US space shuttle.

As It Is May 2 2013i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


Hello, again.  I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.  Thank you for spending some time with VOA.  Today, we have two stories from Africa.  There is disturbing news about migrants in the Horn of Africa.  Then we hear from Burundi, where press freedom seems to be under attack.  But first, new dangers have been discovered for those who choose to face the “final frontier.”
 
United States Army researchers say even short trips into space can weaken the body’s natural defenses for fighting disease. The researchers found that this can increase the risk of serious infection.
 
The findings come from researchers at Fort Detrick in the state of Maryland. They studied information from a medical experiment performed on the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis
.
The experiment was designed to show how the human immune system reacts to stress and disease in the microgravity conditions of Earth orbit. Microgravity is a nearly weightless condition in which there is very little gravity.

The experiment involved living human cells. They were placed in a clean, temperature-controlled container. The experiment was easy for astronauts traveling on the shuttle Atlantis. All they had to do was push a button to infect the cells with a common bacterial toxin.
 
The container was in space for two weeks. Researchers with the Army Medical Command have spent the past two years studying the information it provided. They compared those findings with information from a similar experiment done on Earth at the same time, under normal gravity conditions.
 
Marti Jett directs the Integrative Systems Biology Program at the Medical Command. She says the cells were so busy dealing with microgravity that they could hardly fight against infections.
 
“We saw a rather similar thing there that these young men were so stressed from reduced sleep, their heavy exercise, their activities that their immune cells simply did not respond very well.”
                                                    
The research on the human immune response in microgravity was reported at the Experimental Biology 2013 conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
 
Humanitarian agencies say thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa are living in terrible conditions along the Yemeni-Saudi Arabian border.  Many have been robbed and tortured by criminals.

Migrant workers from Africa below the Sahara Desert often believe that they can find jobs in Saudi Arabia.  But getting there can mean traveling to and through Yemen, where they become targets of smugglers and people who deal in human traffic.  Caty Weaver takes the story from there.
 
The routes to Yemen include long and dangerous boat trips from Somalia over the Gulf of Aden – and the much shorter trip from Djibouti across the Red Sea.  But there the people also are threatened by smugglers, who may rob or even kill them.
 
The International Organization for Migration – the IOM -- estimates that there are at least 25,000 migrants along the Yemen-Saudi border. Nicoletta Giordano is chief of mission in Yemen for the IOM.  She described the groups who are making the trip to the border.
 
“The majority are Ethiopian migrants, who undertake this really quite dangerous journey.  There’s also a number of refugees who come across.  They’re mostly Somalis, who are recognized as refugees automatically here in Yemen because Yemen is a signatory to the refugee convention.  But three-quarters of the flows coming across from the Horn of Africa are indeed Ethiopian migrants.”
 
Yemen does not recognize the Ethiopians as refugees.  Here again is Ms.Giordono:
 
“They find themselves destitute and quite exhausted by the journey by the time they get to the border with Saudi.  And that’s where they fall prey smugglers and traffickers with respect to the final leg of the journey over to Saudi Arabia.”
 
Some are held in camps by the smugglers.  Recently, Yemeni forces rescued almost 2000 migrants being held against their will. But even after they gain freedom there is little assistance available for the migrants. Aid agencies say their finances are low.  The IOM is appealing for 1.2 million dollars to help Yemen provide shelter, food and health care. I’m Caty Weaver.
 
Reporters in the African nation of Burundi are opposing a bill that they believe will limit press freedoms. Rights groups have been urging Burundi’s president to reject the measure, as Kelly Jean Kelly reports.
 
Earlier this month, Burundi’s senate approved a media bill that would force reporters to identify sources. Reporters would be required to say who supplied the information used in their stories. The bill also would bar the press from reporting on issues like public security, defense and the economy.  Reporters and news agencies that violate the law could be required to pay thousands of dollars in fines.
Bob Rugurika is editor-in-chief of Radio Publique Africaine in Burundi. He told VOA reporter Gabe Joselow the proposed restrictions are unacceptable.
 
“There are many, many restrictions, he says. The law prevents us from working on news about security, the economy, the currency - imagine that.”
                        
Rights groups including The Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International have urged President Pierre Nkurunziza to reject the bill. A large majority of members in both the national assembly and the senate voted for the measure. The ruling party has controlled both houses of parliament since the opposition boycotted elections in 2010. Lawmakers said the bill would protect Burundi’s citizens and leaders.
                    
Burundi's government has a recent history of being firm with reporters. Police detained Mr. Rugurika several times over the past few years. In 2011 he was questioned for 10 hours after a broadcast report suggested that state security forces were responsible for killing 40 people.
 
In March, officials released reporter Hassan Ruvakuki. He was arrested in 2011 on terrorism charges after he met with rebels in Tanzania. The reporter said he was only doing his job at the time. The charges were reduced during his appeal. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.
 
And I’m Jim Tedder in Washington.  Thank you for spending some time with us on this Thursday, the second day of May.  On this date in 1903, America’s “Baby Doctor” Benjamin Spock was born in New Haven, Connecticut.  His famous book on baby and child care sold over 30 million copies. 
 
Also on this date in 1946, Lesley Gore was born.  At the age of 16 she recorded the rock and roll hit.  VOA world news follows at the beginning of each hour.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Angles Xu from: China
05/04/2013 8:43 AM
its better that all articles reading time limites within 5 minutes,


by: Noor Mohammad from: Afghanistan
05/04/2013 4:40 AM
this is very good English language program for learning English I hope thoes guys that they have some problems in listening they should follow it because it can help them.
Thanks alot.


by: Edgar Guariguata Gil from: Venezuela
05/02/2013 12:26 AM
the new look of this section is better than former one, it is easy read and listen at the same time, congratulation. Edgar

Learn with The News

  • Google Scrubbing Search Results

    Video What’s the Top 'Trending' Search This Year?

    At the top of Google’s top-trending searches list is Robin Williams, the American comedian and actor who died four months ago. The list also includes the World Cup, Ebola, Malaysia Airlines, ISIS and Flappy Bird. Chances are that more people have heard of the game Angry Birds than Flappy Bird. More

  • Obama College Sexual Assault

    Video How the US Deals with its Sexual Assault Problem

    A new study shows young women ages 18 to 24 are the most common targets of rape and sexual attack. Many Americans are dealing with the problem. They are hearing and reading about the issue, from awareness and activism at colleges to programs to fight it at the highest levels of government. More

  • Video Helping California’s Homeless

    Federal officials believe there are hundreds of thousands of homeless people nationwide on any given day. Each one lacks a permanent place to live. Reasons for homelessness can include the high cost of housing, poverty and unemployment. Other reasons are mental health problems and bad luck. More

  • Rice farmers in Cambodia tend to their crops. Some 12% of the country's paddy fields are believed to have been destroyed due to the flooding in Southeast Asia.

    Audio Cambodian, Thai Rice Voted Best in the World

    For the third straight year, the World Rice Conference has voted Cambodian rice as the world’s best. This year Cambodia shares the award with Thailand. Cambodia produced just one percent of the world’s rice in 2012. It is trying to increase that amount. The award may help. More

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and U.S. President Obama participate in a welcome ceremony for President Obama at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

    Audio Is China Starting to Live its Dream?

    Trust in the American dream may be disappearing. But halfway around the world, a new dream has been gaining strength -- the Chinese dream. To be exact: President Xi Jinping’s Chinese dream. But, what is the Chinese dream? And how has President Xi started to make his dream for the country a reality? More

Featured Stories

  • Obama National Christmas Tree

    Audio The History of Christmas in America

    In the first half of the 19th century, Christmas was a very different kind of holiday than it is today. People did not have a set way of celebrating. Christmas was not even an official holiday yet. More

  • Video Music Shows in Private Homes Gain Popularity

    Attending a live musical performance, be it in a huge arena or a small cafe, is an exciting experience. But here in the U.S., a very different kind of performance is gaining popularity: house concerts. “There's just a totally unique experience as opposed to playing like a coffee shop or a bar." More

  • Lee Surrenders to Grant at Appomatox

    Audio Southern General Robert E. Lee Surrenders at Appomattox

    General Robert E. Lee’s military skill and intelligence helped extend the war between the states. But even his skill could not save the South from the industrial power of the North and its mighty armies -- armies that were better-fed and better-equipped. On Sunday, August 9, Lee surrendered. More

  • Uganda Playground for Disabled Children

    Audio Helping Uganda’s Disabled Children Play

    You may think that all children have freedom to play. But for children who look differently from others or have physical disabilities, the idea of play can seem far away. An organization in Uganda is seeking to change that. Read on to learn words needed to talk about this sometimes difficult topic. More

  • A microneedle used to inject glaucoma medications into the eye is shown next to a liquid drop from a conventional eye dropper. (Georgia Tech Photo: Gary Meek

    Audio Tiny Needles Treat Eye Disease

    Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness around the world. In the United States, more than two million people suffer from the disease. Now, researchers are developing very small needles that may offer a more effective and painless treatment for glaucoma and other eye diseases. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs